The University of Michigan is ranked
No. 28on U.S. News & World Report’s list of best national universities.
But the fact of the matter is, the home of the Big House admits some exceptional students the likes of Harvard, Yale, and Stanford have never seen.
We rounded up 16 incredibly impressive undergrads at U of M.
Ashley Shipley conducts biomedical research that improves the lives of patients with cancer and cerebral aneurysms.
Class of 2014
Ashley Shipley contributes life-altering research that aims to preserve reproductive fertility in women undergoing cancer treatment in the University's Biomedical Engineering Department.
Cancer treatment can deplete many or all of a female patient's ovarian follicles, resulting in premature infertility, Shipley explained. Her lab hopes to offer patients the option to remove the ovaries before treatment, and perform in vitro fertilization after the follicles have matured in a culture. The process has been successful in mice so far.
Shipley has also designed and built a device that tests neurovascular coils used to treat cerebral aneurysms for stroke prevention during an internship at Stryker Neurovascular. These coils are implanted into a cerebral aneurysm via minimally invasive surgery to obstruct blood blow in the aneurysm and prevent it from rupturing -- one of the major causes of a stroke.
Next semester Shipley will continue her research, and begin a master's program in Biomedical Engineering at Michigan.
Class of 2016
Earlier this year Garcia enrolled in playwright Holly Hughes' production course, the goal of which was staging, costuming, and touring 'The Well of Horniness,' a 60-minute play that tells the story of Vicki, a closeted lesbian who escapes from an evil lesbian sorority by hooking up with a man. Garcia starred in drag as Vicki and performed on stages in New York City and Chicago.
He furthers his commitment to entertaining and engaging audiences with ideas of social change. He mentors incoming Latino freshmen through an orientation program called ALMA, and fosters dialogue through the Coalition for Queer People of Colour.
This past summer, the Los Banos, Calif., transplant returned to his current home in Charlotte, N.C. and became involved with Don't H8, a non-profit organisation that operates a national pageantry system for queer performers and supports its communities. Garcia was named The Ultimate Teen of Don't H8 2013, and represents the organisation at pageantry events and speaking out against bullying at high schools and youth centres.
Garcia is in the early stages of planning an Ann Arbor drag ball, and hopes to one day establish a venue for queer performers in the area. Eventually he would like to be an academic of the arts.
Class of 2015
Cathy Huang started doing gymnastics when she was seven and by 16 she was an elite All-American Gymnast, practicing 20 hours a week, until a torn ACL and meniscus suddenly ended her promising career as a gymnast.
But rather than let herself be beat, Huang joined MPowered, Michigan's umbrella organisation for student entrepreneurship, where she is now the CFO. The people and ideas she encountered at MPowered inspired her to create VEX, an on-campus storefront where student entrepreneurs can sell the things they make. Huang runs the enterprise and curates the items sold in the space. Her venture is backed with both moral and financial support directly from the University.
Huang is also a part of the True Ventures TEC Fellowship, a prestigious immersion program for college students from all over the country to learn firsthand what it's like to work for a startup, and receive advice and mentorship from some of the best minds of Silicon Valley.
Huang hopes to pursue an internship with the Google BOLD program, which provides students who are historically under-represented in the tech industry with exposure to this field.
Chris Mays overcame extreme poverty and now seeks reform in issues of affirmative action and racism.
Class of 2014
Chris Mays grew up just outside Detroit. His family had a lot of problems that stemmed from the financial meltdown, and was at one point on the brink of homelessness. Having seen that Mays was inspired to find success by any means necessary, and fuelled a lifelong passion in politics.
When students wanted to attend a D.C. rally in support of affirmative action -- timed to coincide with a Supreme Court case that would decide whether Prop 2, Michigan's ban on race-based affirmative action, is constitutional -- Mays was instrumental in securing transportation funds for them. Mays, the only African-American student government representative at U of M, was selected as the U of M student rep at the march.
He's also attempting to mend relations between black fraternities and sororities and the University's larger Greek community after one fraternity planned a party with a racially-offensive theme this semester. He organised a forum on race issues at the Michigan League, and helped the Black Student Union launch a nationally trending Twitter campaign, using the hashtag #BBUM. 'Being Black at the University of Michigan' encourages U of M students to use Twitter to share their experiences, both positive and negative, as black students.
Mays, a Political Science and British History major, would like to intern at a law firm or in a Member of Congress's office before pursuing an MBA or JD.
Chris O'Neil created a musical effects processor for the iPhone that's getting attention in Silicon Valley.
Class of 2015
Chris O'Neil competed in the inaugural Mhacks, the largest collegiate hackathon in the world, and claimed second-place with his team's invention, Vulse, a real-time effects processor for the iPhone. The phone affixes to an electric guitar and the user creates dynamic sounds using gestures on the app's interface.
O'Neil said they've received positive feedback from industry insiders. With the prize money, the team traveled to San Francisco for the LAUNCH conference, an opportunity to showcase their product. They also crashed the Interact ATX event at SXSW and demoed for venture capitalists and angel investors. Vulse is expected to hit the App Store in March.
O'Neil is the President and Chief Strategic Officer of MPowered, University of Michigan's umbrella organisation for student entrepreneurship, and is responsible for managing all of its offshoots, including MHacks. He also co-founded Arbrr LLC, an independent contractor company that links talented student developers with outside companies with web, iOS, and Android needs.
O'Neil enrolled at Michigan to study biomedical engineering but got hooked on coding; he said his goal is to keep starting companies.
Class of 2014
Brown was fed up with the Ann Arbor City Council's failure to address residents' growing concerns over civil issues, so he co-founded the Mixed Use Party, an effort by college students to influence the city's zoning laws.
The Mixed Use Party, which includes roughly 80 active student members, aims to reduce urban sprawl and vehicle use by increasing population density in the city -- essentially allowing more compact housing to exist near businesses. Brown collected 100 signatures from registered voters over the summer and got his name on the November City Council election ballot to enact real change.
He participated in a televised public forum with his opponent, a popular Ward 2 incumbent. On weekends knocked on hundreds of doors to rally support. Brown failed to grab two per cent of the vote in the three-person race, but said he's grateful for the glimpse into local government and is proud the Mixed Use Party was able to start a dialogue on zoning issues.
What the Mixed Use Party did do, though, was get out the vote on campus, registering between 300 and 400 students to vote. In the last off-year city council election, only three students in the Markley and Hill neighbourhood voted.
A Biopsychology and Cognition Neuroscience double major, Brown plans to travel after graduation and then pursue a medical degree.
Class of 2016
The forward for UofM's basketball team set a new University vertical leap record, soaring over 12 feet in the air. Only a sophomore, he is a projected NBA lottery pick, quickly following in the footsteps of his father, former NBA star Glenn Robinson.
ESPN writer Jeff Goodman calls this promising UofM player 'the most impressive player of anyone I saw.' And in September, Sporting News named Robinson the fifth best overall player in the Big 10 Conference.
The St. John, Ind., native is enrolled in the School of Kinesiology but has yet to declare a major.
Manish Parikh founded the U of M Entrepreneurship Commission, whose efforts were recognised by the White House.
Class of 2014
During his term as student body president, Manish Parikh founded the University of Michigan Entrepreneurship Commission. Eighteen different campus organisations came together to bring more resources to student entrepreneurs and host 30 events during the first-ever Month of Entrepreneurship. The Commission's efforts to catalyze innovation on campus were recognised by the White House.
Parikh also launched a 'social government campaign' that lead to the highest voter turnout in the 106-year history of their student government, and organised a massive Ann Arbor clean-up to improve relations between the University and the city.
The Michigan Daily checked and verified that his administration delivered on every one of his campaign promises -- resulting in 58 projects in areas of entrepreneurship and innovation, increasing diversity and inclusiveness, sustainability, and social justice.
He previously had zero student government experience, and was the first Independent candidate to be elected to the position in the University's recent history.
Parikh, who grew up in Mumbai, India, graduates in January with three degrees in Business, Political Science, and Entrepreneurship. He plans to pursue a Masters of Business Administration and Public Administration, preparing him for a career in social entrepreneurship or public policy.
Class of 2014
After conducting an independent study on OB/GYN and Ghanaian culture last year, Young traveled to Ghana to perform clinical observations and ethnographic research in different hospitals for eight weeks.
She observed a massive lack of cervical cancer screening, and noticed that the commonly-used Western pap-smear was inadequate for the low-resource setting.
Young learned about a more appropriate screening method called Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) -- but the method replaced cytology (the study of cells) with experiential knowledge that only a handful of midwives in Ghana had. Along with her teammate, she designed a low-fidelity cervical cancer screening simulator that would train midwives to perform VIA.
This semester Young began development on a prototype and plans to return to Ghana in early 2014 to receive feedback on it and begin implementation.
A Biomedical Engineering major, Young plans to pursue a career in global technologies, urban health policies, or women's health, and eventually wants to earn a degree in medicine or medical anthropology.
Class of 2014
Naoum probably didn't expect to find herself in prison during her time at University of Michigan. For the past two years, she's been a member of the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP), which uses the arts to empower and enrich the lives of those at youth detention centres and prisons. She facilitates weekly activities, drives volunteers to the facilities, and plans year-end plays, readings, or musical performances.
Naoum oversaw the first ever PCAP music workshop at a women's prison, and noted how many participants have trouble expressing themselves. 'It's my responsibility to ensure that the participants feel safe and valued so they can offer their most honest selves,' she said.
Naoum is also the president of the Michigan Performance Outreach Workshop, an arts-for-social-change student organisation engaged in Detroit public schools, and an intern at Matrix Theatre Community.
Naoum has been accepted to the University of Michigan Masters of Social Work program, and hopes to get a dual-degree in Public Policy at the Ford School. Her goal is to become an elected official in Detroit or at the state level.
Class of 2014
In 2004 Nick Lemmer and his sister, a UofM alum, took a problem -- not being able to find Italian ice in Michigan -- and decided to solve it by making and selling it at different local events and festivals from a food cart.
They soon graduated to gelato, which they saw as more authentic than the Americanized Italian ice they were selling, and they opened Iorio's Gelateria in Ann Arbor in the summer of 2011.
Iorio's was named for Lemmer's grandmother, and is his outlet to exploring his Italian heritage and Italian cuisine. His family is very involved in the business, as is the UofM community -- many of the shop's employees are students.
Lemmer manages about 20 employees, who help him design flavours. Lemmer does all the operations like inventory, shipments, and running errands for supplies, but he is hoping to transition from an operational role to a minimized owner role by the time he graduates in the spring.
When Lemmer isn't in class or at the shop, he's the head student manager of the UofM women's basketball team doing set-up and logistics before, during, and after games.
Lemmer is focusing on graduating right now, and hopes to stay in an entrepreneurial environment, either continuing at Iorio's, or possibly at a startup.
Olubisi 'Bisi' Ajetunmobi helped design a rehabilitation study abroad program for medical residents.
Class of 2015
For the past two summer, Ajetunmobi has worked with teams of researchers at the University's Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department on designing a program for medical residents to travel abroad and teach people in other countries about their regions' medical rehabilitation practices while also learning about the practices of other regions.
Her research led to becoming co-author on a research abstract. The abstract was published in the World Congress of the International Society for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in China, which Ajetunmobi got to attend and present her work.
Ajetunmobi is extremely passionate and focused on HIV/AIDS intervention and prevention; this past summer she worked on a research project at the University's Sexuality and Health Lab (SexLab) that aids sexual health awareness and safety on campus.
After graduating from U of M, Ajetunmobi plans to attend Medical School at the University of Michigan. She hopes to someday practice holistic medicine and build a well-functioning hospital in Nigeria.
She also dreams of starting a non-profit that empowers children from underrepresented communities through new skills in the arts, science, and literature.
Phillip Schermer raised over $US200,000 for local charities with the help of musicians like Ben Folds and J. Cole.
Class of 2014
The Pittsburgh, Penn. native founded MUSIC Matters in the spring of 2012 to bring all parts of the UofM campus and Ann Arbor together to unite everyone during a day of festivities and giving back to the community.
In the organisation's first year, Schermer and MUSIC Matters got Grammy nominee J. Cole to perform on campus and donated $US10,000 to the local children's hospital; last year they brought in Ben Folds and donated $US50,000 to endow a student-funded, need-based scholarship. Schermer's 'student-for-student, hands-on' philanthropy model is the first of its kind at UofM, and possibly the first of its kind anywhere in the country.
To date, Schermer has led the efforts to raise over $US200,000 in investments in MUSIC Matters. Schermer personally collaborates with the agents of the artists they bring to campus, chooses the charities that receive the organisation's funding, and has rallied a University-wide support network behind the organisation's mission.
In addition to his role with MUSIC Matters, Schermer spent a semester in DC working for the White House's National Economic Council and assisting Director Gene Sperling's senior policy advisor with opposition research. Schermer has also studied filmmaking, and worked as an assistant on the sets of 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' and 'The Dark Knight Rises.'
Schermer will begin work as an analyst at BlackRock in New York City when he graduates.
Class of 2015
While Sam Mikulak currently calls the Michigan Wolverines his home team, the college junior competed at the 2012 London Olympic games on the U.S. men's gymnastics team.
He didn't take home a medal in London, but shortly thereafter he became a 2013 NCAA bronze medalist, a U.S. all-around champion, and placed fourth in the high bar final at the 2013 World Championships. Not bad for a 21-year-old full-time student.
Coincidentally, Mikulak's former roommate at U of M also appeared at the London Olympics representing the Bangladeshi gymnastics team.
Mikulak, who is majoring in psychology, hopes to compete in the Visa Championships this year, and make another run for the next Olympics.
Class of 2015
Tom Erdmann is the co-founder and director of MHacks, the largest student-run hackathon in the world. In September, more than 1,200 students from nearly 100 schools across North America gathered in Michigan's stadium to create new and exciting inventions in just 36 hours.
Coders work around the clock to develop a minimum viable product that they can show off to judges and fellow competitors, with $36,000 in prizes up for grabs. Facebook, Google, Apple, and Twitter helped sponsor the event, and sent representatives to mentor students and potentially identify recruits.
Erdmann said he, Adam Williams, Dan Friedman, and Dave Fontenot started MHacks because the Midwest was largely underrepresented at collegiate hackathons. Today, as the sole founder who is still a Michigan student, he continues to shape the semi-annual event to focus on the talented and collaborative community, not competition.
Erdmann, a Computer Science and Mathematics double major, is also a co-founder of Creators Co-op, a collaborative workspace for entrepreneurs on campus, and Arbrr, a student developers contractor. He plans to spend his summer interning in Silicon Valley.
Class of 2014
Tyson Gersh used to row for UofM, but an autoimmune disorder left him handicapped for eight months and ended his crew career, so he turned his attention to Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI), a non-profit he founded that seeks to correct the socioeconomic disparity in the food industry and empower urbanites to go green.
Gersh, an Ann Arbor native, believes there are challenges unique to the Greater Detroit area, such as vacant land, poor nutrition, and lack of access to great produce. He was inspired to develop a sustainable agriculture model -- one that would grow food on abandoned and vacant land without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides -- and employ the community to keep it going.
This year MUFI produced more than 10,000 pounds of local, organic produce. They now own five acres of land across Detroit and are remodeling multiple blighted structures. Since attaining 501(c)(3) status last year, MUFI has acquired 2,500 volunteers and more than $US50,000 in funding through corporate-sponsored pitch and social media contests.
Gersh, a Psychology major, is focused on growing MUFI and continuing his research in affective neuroscience and social psychology. He plans to move to Detroit after graduation and eventually enter a Ph.D. program in Social Psychology or Marketing.
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